Starcross Yacht Club swaps old tyres for sustainability

A very old club makes a very contemporary decision

One of the oldest sailing clubs in the country has made a very contemporary decision in order to improve and maintain its beautiful estuary-side environment. As part of a clearance project, the General Committee of Starcross Yacht Club has banned the use of old tyres to support boats and other craft, providing its own branded wooden stands as a sustainable alternative.

As Commodore Ian Purvis explains, the move was made in order to remove approximately 400 end-of-life tyres from the club site: “The advantage has been that they are normally free to anyone who wants them. The problem is that they risk particulate waste leaching into the river and local area, and they make the site look very untidy.”

The wooden stands provided and funded by the club for its members’ craft are made-to-measure for each boat category and tie-downs are used to anchor trolleys firmly. They have been constructed on-site by club volunteers, using timber sourced from sustainable forests.

Adjoining the club site is the busy London to Penzance railway line, and Network Rail have recently replaced the security fencing, which meant that many of the boats had to be moved. This became the ideal opportunity to complete the tyre removal project. Four volunteers have spent about 100 hours making the stands, and another 100 deploying them.

The disposal of the tyres was carefully considered by the General Committee. It is a costly process, especially for perished tyres, as their composite materials do not easily lend themselves to shredding or chipping, but they can be recycled into many products including an addition to asphalt and railway sleepers to decrease vehicle noise, soft surfaces for playgrounds and equestrian areas and as a fuel for industrial products, notably in cement kilns.

The club will be celebrating its 250th anniversary in 2022; the huge clearance project in preparation for this has also included the removal of around 1.5 tons of scrap metal from discarded, rusting trolleys and trailers and several hundred kilogrammes of other items abandoned behind sheds, racks and hedges over decades. Steve Peat, Berth Marshal, also dealt with quite a number of abandoned boats, tracking down many of the owners, selling some and scrapping the remainder.

The tyres were removed by Sean's Tyre Services in Plymouth and transported to Fraser Evans recycling in Oxfordshire at a total cost around £1300. The scrap metal went to Newbery Metals in Exeter. This was cost neutral; the scrap metal value was swapped for the loading and transport charge. The club employs EMS waste management services at Clyst St Mary in East Devon for general waste, including the old boats, at a charge of £190 per ton.

The cost of all the waste management has worked out at under £2 per member for a single membership year.

The volunteers still have work to do; feedback from members so far has been overwhelmingly positive, but the next stage of the club’s anniversary plans is to create some family areas with seating at the top and bottom of the site which is leased from the Powderham Estate.